SANTA FE – There are nearly 700 days to go until Election Day, but U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Tuesday that she’s officially in for New Mexico’s 2018 gubernatorial race, becoming the first candidate from either major political party to enter the race.
Lujan Grisham, an Albuquerque Democrat, was re-elected last month to a third term in Congress but said in a interview she will keep her seat in Congress and believes she can juggle a statewide campaign and her duties in Washington, D.C.
“New Mexico needs someone who’s a fighter and a leader,” she told the Journal. “I have no doubt I’ll have to make some sacrifices, but I have a great staff in Congress and I don’t need much sleep.”
Lujan Grisham, 57, has held appointed posts, including two Cabinet positions, under three governors – and is a former Bernalillo County commissioner.
Her announcement comes just a week after U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, another prominent New Mexico Democrat, said he would forgo a run at governor and remain in the Senate.
Lujan Grisham said Tuesday that Udall’s decision was a “signal” for her to run for governor, adding, “His decision about staying in the Senate makes me feel better that we’ll have enough fighters in Congress.”
In a web video announcing her candidacy, Lujan Grisham took aim at Gov. Susana Martinez – who is barred, because of term limits, from seeking re-election in 2018 – and cited New Mexico’s high unemployment rate, struggling public school system and persistent trouble spots of poverty and substance abuse.
“We won’t solve our problems overnight. It’s why this is a beginning,” Lujan Grisham said. “But for the last six years with a governor who refused to acknowledge the problems even exist … we haven’t been able to solve anything.”
However, the state Republican Party immediately criticized her as a political opportunist with a skimpy record of accomplishments in Congress.
“Lujan Grisham has no record as a job creator and has done very little during her time in Congress,” state GOP spokesman Tucker Keene said in a Tuesday statement.
New Mexico has been grappling with a persistent revenue downturn over the past two years, due largely to falling oil and natural gas prices, that has prompted steep budget cuts and other solvency measures.
Lujan Grisham said her campaign for governor will focus on diversifying and strengthening the state’s economy, though she provided few specific proposals in her Tuesday announcement.
“You can’t cut your way out of these economic woes,” she told the Journal.
Meanwhile, Lujan Grisham’s decision to file early as a candidate for the 2018 race could give her a jump in raising campaign funds. Running for governor requires ample fundraising prowess – Martinez took in more than $6.7 million in contributions during her 2010 gubernatorial bid.
You can click here to watch Lujan Grisham’s web video.
It could also put pressure on other potential candidates to decide whether to jump into the race.
Other Democrats who have expressed interest include New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas; Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales; state Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces; media executive Jeff Apodaca; and Santa Fe businessman Alan Webber.
Although no Republicans have formally entered the race yet, potential GOP candidates include U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez.